We know SMART goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here’s a story about how a variation on ‘M’ made a difference for a cohort in our recent training session on Situational Leadership.
This is a story about a senior manager, Raj, whose name we changed for this article.
Raj led a five-person team in a recruitment agency with a roster of customers in telecommunications and media, marketing and advertising agencies.
With the decline in the traditional consumer business, clients who initially adopted a wait-and-see approach to hiring started to freeze external hiring entirely, laid off or redeployed staff internally.
In the third week of the pandemic, it was clear that recruitment would change dramatically.
There were new prospects: SME businesses trying to digitise their business. However, their budgets and commissions were much smaller. Raj tried to rally his team about these new opportunities. Yet, he knew morale was low.
Ironically for his recruitment business, his star salesperson eventually left.
Raj knew that some dramatic changes needed to happen internally. One night, while preparing for his weekly training sessions, he realised that the trades of his tools – outreach templates, software and recruiting databases – were not sufficient to see them through the slump.
Raj’s team focused on accounts and commissions, not the real people and their talents. That was their motivation.
With a small mindset shift, his team bounced back when they took on both a customer-centric and candidate-centric approach to sales.
This was because there was more than a candidate that a CV, and more to a SME than a website.
Here’s three reasons how it worked:
#1 – Meaningful SMART Goals encourages empathy
Raj realised that he was just going through the motions in their 20-minute weekly sales meetings.
He made time to catch up with each team member to chat about their challenges, and most importantly, to connect with them just beyond their role in the company. They confided their anxieties and their personal goals, something he only knew vaguely about.
Most importantly, by connecting with his team, he could establish that they could incorporate the same empathy in their work.
SME owners were equally fearful and excited about the opportunities in employing a digitised workforce, and his team needed to demonstrate the same mindset in their search for talents.
#2 – Motivational SMART Goals encourages action
Ultimately, the recruiter’s primary goal is to put the company’s interests first: to hire talent and outfit their organisation for future growth.
Raj added to that perspective by establishing that discovery process too in their candidate search.
One common reluctance with working for SMEs is the lack of perceived career growth.
While in the discovery period, Raj made it a point to discover the digital roadmaps for each SME to stand out amidst the competition. He gave feedback on building a lean team and recommended free-to-use or flexible digital solutions to set these SMEs up for digitisation.
Similarly, his team took time to speak to each candidate on the phone, to understand their motivations and align them to the customers. For candidates who fit the bill, they spent more time coaching candidates to be more appealing.
It was a more high-touch approach to his usual SMART Goals, but it showed in the results. In the first two months of this mindset shift, Raj went from zero sales to matching 20 candidates to new jobs in fledging SME businesses.
#3 – Measurable, Motivational and Meaningful SMART Goals increases job satisfaction
SMEs are notoriously old-school without structured HR departments. Some of them were family-run businesses trying to build in structure for the first time.
The hiring manager is sometimes the father, husband, business owner, and finance person all in one. On the other hand, the digital roadmap champion is a younger family member or a mid-level manager.
Raj’s team gained a lot more ground by incorporating motivational and meaningful SMART goals for his team by truly understanding and aligning business and functional needs.
Crucially, they gained their trust, which was more important than any commission they got.
This was far more rewarding for his team. These SMEs referred Raj’s services in their networks, and candidates who were placed in these roles referred other friends and former colleagues.
If you enjoyed this article about goal-setting for teams in VUCA times, here are more real-life applications about Situational Leadership for Organisational Agility.